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BEIJING DECLARATION

The Beijing Declaration changed substantially from the opening to the conclusion of the FWCW. The negotiating process deliberately linked sections of the Declaration to negotiations on similar segments of the Platform for Action. As a result, delegates created a relatively lengthy and dense document that highlights and repeats key parts of the Platform, avoids some of the most controversial elements and adds a broad statement on human rights.

Negotiations on the Declaration were assigned early on to a Contact Group under Olga Pellicer (Mexico). Four difficult paragraphs were eventually passed to the Main Committee in brackets. Those were handled in the high-level group that negotiated remaining disputes during the Conference's final day.

The Contact Group agreed to use a G-77/China draft from 13 June as the basis for negotiations. A revised version of the G-77/China draft was circulated early in the negotiations, incorporating some proposed amendments from the EU, the US, Switzerland, Australia and others. The draft, as well as the final Declaration, was written in four sections: a preamble; reaffirmed commitments; principles under the heading "We are convinced that;" and actions that governments are determined to carry out. While the original G-77/China proposal comprised 16 paragraphs, the final version contained 38.

The Declaration recognizes that the status of women has advanced but that inequalities and obstacles remain. It reaffirms commitments to: equal rights in a number of existing agreements; ensuring full implementation of human rights of women and the girl child; and empowerment and advancement of women, including the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief. Delegates stated their conviction that: women's empowerment and full participation are fundamental to equality, development and peace; equal rights and responsibilities are critical to families; women's involvement is required to eradicate poverty; peace is linked to the advancement of women; and gender-sensitive policies are essential to foster women's empowerment and advancement. Governments are determined to: intensify efforts to achieve goals from the Nairobi strategies; ensure the full enjoyment by women and the girl child of human rights; eliminate discrimination and remove obstacles to equality; encourage men to participate in actions towards equality; promote women's economic independence; promote sustainable development and education; prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls; ensure full participation; and ensure equal access to economic resources.

Delegates agreed quickly on most of the preamble, adding references to the goals of equality, development and peace and women's voices and diversity. Reaffirmation of past agreements and the Nairobi Strategies were accepted, as were endorsements of the human rights of women and the girl child.

The statement that "women's rights are human rights" was adopted in paragraph 14 of the Declaration, despite the objections of some delegations that it could be interpreted as establishing as human rights activities not already covered in international legal instruments. Delegates added a paragraph inserting the "Conference of Commitments" language into the Declaration, that through their commitments at the Conference and elsewhere, Governments and the international community recognize the need for action.

Language was adopted in paragraph 32 (barriers to women's human rights) following an agreement reached on similar text in paragraph 48 of the Platform. Paragraph 28 of the Declaration (nuclear arms, disarmament and a nuclear test ban treaty) was also included after Platform language was agreed.

The Contact Group settled only one of the most contentious paragraphs of the Declaration. Delegates maintained an early agreement to include language from Working Group II on the right of all women to control all aspects of their own health, in particular their fertility. The issue was debated repeatedly, but the language was not altered after initial amendments by the Contact Group.

Four paragraphs were sent out of the Contact Group in brackets: 23 (full enjoyment of human rights); 30 (access to education and health care); 35 (access to economic resources); and 36 (financial resources). The final negotiations on these paragraphs were conducted in the high-level group and approved by the Main Committee. In paragraph 23, the Declaration refers to all human rights and fundamental freedoms, but a reference to sexual and reproductive rights was removed. The final version of paragraph 30 refers to ensuring equal treatment of women and men in education and health care and enhancing women's sexual and reproductive health as well as education. A specific list of terms was added to paragraph 35, including land, credit, science and technology, vocational training, information, communications and markets. The financial resources language in paragraph 36 repeats paragraph 6 of the Platform. Paragraph 37 (countries with economies in transition) was added by the Main Committee after the high-level group negotiations.

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